Waiver: If you are under 40 you wont read this but should.
“Voluntary exercise is the single best thing one can do to slow the cognitive decline that accompanies normal ageing,” says David J. Linden, Ph.D.Hopkins Medicine
When I say “anti-ageing” I mean defying the cyclical age of a human life span “anti ageing” a phrase we understand and that big-tech companies have been and currently investing trillions of dollars into what they call “super longevity” a race to uncover through science and technology the secret key to eternal youth, the fight against time, the widely considered fault of human physical and mental decline and short life span of the body and often mind.
For us everyday people living our lives as best we can - it is humbling to remind ourselves that we are all ageing from the moment we are born, it is simply a fact of life. Even with oodles of banked cash, assets and life success’s providing more choice, ease and opportunities may well get you a VIP table and a first class seat but cannot buy extra time or guarantee a smooth journey.
Anti-ageing is more than good skin and toned body goals, for many people over 40 awareness of our brain becomes apparent, though these thoughts often start to surface secretly and somewhat ashamedly. The decline of the brain becomes apparent and concerns for our mental capacity long term becomes a reality we would rather not face let alone discuss.
By decline I mean like a seed sprouting we grow and hopefully flourish in our lifetime. Like plants there are seasons of great achievement and times when nurture is required. Our advancements of living a longer and more affluent life has not given us more general awareness of how to make better, informed choices for long term brain ability. Cognitive decline is mostly not recognised until it is too late to repair which is something you realise when its too late to make the choices that could prevent or at least slow down this possibility and for some genetically an inevitability.
For humans full brain development occurs around the age of 25, what that means is the pre frontal cortex is not fully developed until we are around and about a third way through our lives, which is a shame because you realise when you look back that beauty and wisdom do not come together, though you thought they did at the time, maybe thats a good thing?
If you think about it there is a short time frame when you brain is fully grown up - post 25 - does that mean the brain simply reverses and starts to decline going forward as we age? As well as our ability to loose and or maintain a healthy weight, a fresh face glow, worshiped and conditioned with the support of mass marketing at the fountain of youth.
To put it simply everything on earth that is living will pass including us, even the most vibrant and beautiful will also to turn to dust. If we are lucky as individuals and survive the ravishes of time and what life throws at us, with the help of healthy habits and sound lifestyle choices we will have a better chance to weather the storms with wisdom and grace.
Women and men also differ, of course we still age at the same rate it is just that culturally and from an evolutionary point the main focus is on women, expectations influenced by beauty standards, the toll and burdens of child rearing and the females change of seasons all play a vital roll in a woman’s health journey.
My point is when it comes to ageing and beauty the focus is mainly on the woman to hold a youthful standard, however If you have ever been on a heterosexual dating app as I have and are over 40/50 and put your real age in you will find that pickings are slim, removing a few years changes everything but warning you may not get the brain to match, now depending on your intentions that could be a good or not so good thing.
People often say that exercise releases endorphins that give you that feel good feeling also called runners high, I have had clients that tell me they have never experienced this "endorphin rush" that they are more likely to feel sick from exercise, as if they must have some kind of defect that means they should not bother to exercise.
Endorphins are released in your body, three to be precise but they are not the cause of this once believed to give the feel good feeling and are in fact an exercise culture myth.
What recent studies have shown is that what is released is a chemical called endocannabinoids a biochemical substance similar to cannabis but naturally produced by the body inducing post-exercise relaxed feel good feelings.
When you start moving your body vigorously - also know as exercise- your breathing changes, your heart rate increases as you pump oxygenated blood to your muscles and brain and your body starts to releases hormones called endorphins. Endorphins released in exercise do help prevent muscles from feeling pain, however endorphins do not pass the blood-brain barrier, which means they don’t absorb into the brain to give you that feel good feeling or euphoric high.
"Popular culture identifies these as the chemicals behind “runner’s high,” a short-lasting, deeply euphoric state following intense exercise. Surveys have revealed runner’s high to be rather rare, however, with a majority of athletes never experiencing it. “Indeed, many distance runners feel merely drained or even nauseated at the end of a long race, not blissful,” says David J. Linden, Ph.D.Hopkins Medicine.
When you exercise you increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream, the difference between endorphins and endocannabinoids is that endocannabinoids do move through the blood brain barrier and do effect short-term mood changes by reducing anxiety and enhancing feelings of calm” There fore exercise is an effective and healthy anti-depressive as it lowers the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress.
Not only does exercise support mental health through chemical changes but regular cardio vascular workouts also enables growth of new blood vessels that nourish the brain with more oxygen access to the brain as well as more brain cell growth through a process called neurogenesis, which may lead to an overall improvement in brain performance and prevent cognitive decline. The hippocampus the part of the brain associated with memory and learning has been found to increase in volume in the brains of those studied doing regular exercise.
Other benefits include: Improved working memory and focus, Better task-switching ability, Elevated mood.
In conclusion - and with the endorphin myth squashed the good news is we are on the right track in that the bodies ability to release natural chemicals to relieve pain, reduce stress and enhance in the moment wellbeing and long term brain health, helping to prevent the decline of the three pound precious organ cased within our head.
Linden. David J. Linden, Ph.D.Hopkins Medicine
British Journal of Sports Medicine